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Davis

Davis, California

Friday, September 24, 2021

City creates new position to generate economic stimulus

On March 6, the Davis City Council voted to add the chief innovation officer (CIO) position to their city staff. According to a staff report from City Manager Steve Pinkerton, the new position will be responsible for attracting and retaining technology businesses in the City of Davis.

“This is really a strategic move for the community, which includes UC Davis,” said Sarah Worley, economic development coordinator for the City of Davis.

According to Worley, the economic downturn’s persistence has made job creation imperative and the City of Davis wants to help graduates obtain highly skilled jobs in the City of Davis.

“I’m aware of the need for focusing on and supporting growth of technology companies that really are aligned with UC Davis’ research strengths,” Worley said.

Rob White, economic development department director for the City of Livermore and Interim CEO of i-GATE Innovation Hub, was selected to fulfill the CIO position. He will begin his work as the CIO at the City of Davis on March 25.

According to a City of Livermore document, “i-GATE (Innovation for Green Advanced Transportation Excellence) is a public-private partnership dedicated to helping small clean technology companies grow.”

Its goal is to create 5,000 jobs and $1 billion in revenue in five years. Ten cities, four federal laboratories and six universities — including the City of Davis and UC Davis — are involved with the iHub.

White’s $240,000 salary will be provided for by a 50 percent contribution from the City of Davis and the remaining 50 percent will be provided for by techDAVIS.

According to its website, techDAVIS is a local business association comprised of technology executives as well as ex-officio members from the government, academic and business sectors with the goal of helping the innovation economy in Davis grow.

“Part of the objective here is to focus on the revenue-generating side of economic development. For the city to be sustainable, we need to look at those opportunities as well as cutting where we can and being more efficient,” Worley said.

According to Dan Wolk, city council member and mayor pro tempore, a driving force for the creation of this position was to harness the potential energy from UC Davis.

“We’ve done OK in the past being able to harness the economic energy that UC Davis has created, but we haven’t done as good of a job as we could and there’s a lot of potential that we’re not realizing,” Wolk said.

Wolk said that hiring White, who has a lot of successful experience in creating innovation-based economic stimulation, especially with the creation of i-GATE in the City of Livermore, will help Davis and the region realize its potential.

“That potential is essentially ensuring that the technologies coming out of UC Davis stay here in the region, and employ these smart grads [and encourage them to] stay here, raise their families here, and work here for these high-paying and highly skilled jobs,” Wolk said.

White said his approach in Livermore is what he will bring to Davis — the creation of a knowledge-based economy.

“If you start at the top with the researchers and the folks that are in that space — CEOs, etc. — and you start to build down, all the other stuff comes with it,” White said.

White said that companies will need tech support, administrative staff, manufacturers and opportunities for retail, such as shops and restaurants, for innovation to stimulate the economy of the region.

When it comes to beginning his new position, White said he believes that the first 30 to 60 days will be filled with information gathering, creating action plans and convening for a lot of discussion.

White said that although he’s a 20-year Yolo County resident, he sees getting to know everyone at the City of Davis and making sure no one is left out in the process as his biggest challenges.

“It’s a new challenge. The swapping out of the University for the laboratory [in Livermore] changes the dynamic in more positive ways,” White said. “That’s what’s most exciting, that university dynamic.”

SYDNEY COHEN can be reached at city@theaggie.com.

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